Bearding – what does it mean?

by Flow Hive 2 min read

Bearding is a term referring to bees accumulating at the front of the hive, in a beard-like shape. Bees do this to make room inside the hive for added ventilation on a hot and humid day. Both the temperature and humidity within the hive are kept to a precise percentage, for both the brood (they require temperatures 32-36C / 90-97F to form properly) and ambient humidity for nectar to be evaporated to honey.

bearding bees

Bees bearding at a hive entrance.

 

What is the difference between swarming and bearding bees?

Bearding bees can often be confused for a hive preparing to swarm, however, bearding bees look slightly different to a hive about to swarm. Swarming bees are looking for a new home, while bearding bees are trying to keep their hive at optimal temperature.

Bees often beard in the evening, when all the forager bees have returned to the hive, while swarming is more common earlier in the day. There will be a lot more flight activity with bees preparing to swarm than with bearding bees, who will mostly remain on the hive. 

It can be easy to confuse bees that are doing orientation flights with bees preparing to swarm. This short video shows the difference.

  

For more on this topic, see our blog on swarm prevention. If you plan to split your hive to prevent swarming, Flow Hive offers the very best in honey harvesting technology.

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Here are some differences between bearding bees and swarm preparations:

Bees bearding

  • Bees clustering at the front (both entrance/landing board and front panel) of the hive, in an attempt to make space inside the hive.
  • It’s an exceptionally hot day.
  • Bees at the entrance facing in the same direction, fanning, trying to cool down the temperature of the hive.

Watch as Cedar answers a question about bearding in this Q&A:

 

Indicators your colony might be preparing to swarm

  • Congestion/lack of space in the brood box. Is your hive overcrowded?
  • A beard-like formation is accompanied by increased aerial activity in front of the hive (bearding bees crawl out of the hive without becoming airborne).
  • There are queen cells in your hive.

Bearding is normal bee behavior. If you have concerns and feel unsure about whether your hive is simply bearding or preparing to swarm, we recommend getting in touch with a local beekeeping mentor, or beekeeping club, or ask the friendly Flow community forum

For more detailed lessons on everything beekeeping, check out TheBeekeeper.org- our online education platform.

 

Want to get started as a beekeeper?

If you want to get bees of your own, then Flow Hive has you covered. Collect delicious honey from your own backyard without disturbing the bees. Check out our starter beehive kit for a special offer that includes everything you need to get up and running.

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